The 3000-hit club is one of Major League Baseball's most exclusive groups. Only 31 men have achieved a career with 3000 or more hits, and one of them is now Adrian Beltre.
In that group of 31 players, someone has to be the worst. Could that be Beltre? Perhaps. After all, Beltre only has one career 200-hit season, in which he produced exactly 200 hits. With that being said, this wouldn't much of a knock on him, or anyone. 3000 hits is 3000 hits.
What pushed Beltre to immortality was a bit different than predecessors, such as Ichiro Suzuki, who broke the single-season hits record in an early-career torrent. Rather, Beltre got to this point through his impeccable consistency and longevity, as well as an unprecedented ability to improve with age.
Amazingly, Beltre began his major-league career just two months after his 19th birthday. His first thirteen seasons, seven with the Dodgers and six with the Mariners, brought no all-star selections. In 2004, however, he had a season that nearly earned him the NL MVP award, batting .334 with 48 home runs and 121 RBI.
Beltre ultimately put up very respectable numbers in his thirteen seasons with the Dodgers and Mariners, batting .270 with an even 250 home runs over that stretch of his career. However, a 1-year deal with the Red Sox in 2010 led to a career rebirth, in retrospect.
Beltre had a great lone season with the Red Sox, batting .321 with 28 home runs and 102 RBI, but Boston didn't aggressively pursue him the following offseason. Beltre waited until January of 2011 to sign a deal with the Rangers, and that might have been the best decision of his life. Beltre found a true home in Texas. The Rangers came within a strike of a World Series title in his first season with the team, and he became their heart and soul after Josh Hamilton left in 2012.
What a tenure it's been for Beltre in Texas, putting up a .307 AVG with 176 home runs over a little more than six seasons. Beltre hit .321, .296, .321, .315, .324, and .287 in his six full seasons with the Rangers, and he's batting .302 through 54 games this season.
Somehow, at age 38 and with 20 years of major league experience, Beltre continues to play at a high level, a level even higher than he did during the first half of his career.
When he signed with Texas in 2011, few would've expected that he reach 3000 hits and 500 home runs, or convince everyone that he is a Hall-of-Famer. Beltre has done two of the three, and 500 home runs might on the way if he can stay healthy into 2019 - he currently has 454.
At this rate, there doesn't appear to be anything stopping Beltre on his path to 500 home runs. He has yet to slow down, and his attitude might play a role in his longevity. Beltre is one of the most genuinely well-liked players in baseball, and it's become routine for cameras to catch him having fun on the field. Whether he's having a good time with Elvis Andrus or he's fending off teammates trying to touch his head, Beltre always seems to keep the mood light.
Just four days before his 3000th hit, Beltre was caught up in an incident that put his demeanor on full display. When umpire Gerry Davis instructed Beltre to move into the on-deck circle, Beltre instead moved the on-deck circle under himself. Davis didn't find the humor in that, ejecting Beltre, but it's safe to say everyone else did.
Adrian Beltre is a constant reminder of how fun the sport of baseball can be. While doing so, he continues to play at a high level and has propelled his legacy from "good third baseman" to "Hall of Fame third baseman." As he prepares to finish off his 20th major-league season, there doesn't appear to be any stopping Beltre's production.